Should You Enter Your Dog in a Veterinary Clinical Trial?


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Dog owners have the right to expect compassionate care for their pet during a clinical trial. Photo credit: Tony Alter

Participating in canine health-related research may be beneficial to your dog, but there are no guarantees of positive results.

Owners must be able to accept that participation may help other animals down the road, even if their own pet does not benefit.

Clinical trials also require commitment, including time spent traveling to and from the facility conducting the trial, and being consistent in following correct procedures.

Participation is, however, completely voluntary and owners may take their dogs out of a trial at any time.

What is a Clinical Trial?

Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine defines clinical trials as research efforts in which veterinarians investigate the value of promising new tests or treatments in a series of patients.

Some trials may help the individual animal by providing access to experimental medications, while others may look at the causes of a disease, in an effort to develop preventative measures.  Clinical trials for dogs may include research into cancer treatment and prevention, testing new medications for a variety of diseases, and exploring the genetic basis for health problems.

US facilities performing clinical trials must have an Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), as mandated by the government, which is responsible for reviewing all clinical trial proposals. These committees focus on the welfare of the animals involved in planned research. IACUC members have particular expertise and experience in various areas related to the use of animals in research, so their input helps ensure the welfare of any animals involved in clinical trials.

What Owners Should Expect From Clinical Trials

In an interview with Decoded Science, Dr. Shila Nordone, Chief Scientific Officer for the AKC’s Canine Health Foundation, emphasized the importance of reading the Informed Consent form carefully, and asking plenty of questions. Dr. Nordone tells us, “No question is stupid or meaningless when owners are making major decisions about the health and well–being of their dog. Dog owners should expect to be well–informed about 1) the purpose and the process of the clinical trial 2) the risks 3) the benefits.”

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